As a part of this, IBM based Symphony on the Eclipse open-source development framework, so it would be easy for third-party ISVs (independent software vendors) to build plug-in applications for the suite much like third parties have built applications for Office. In fact, one company in Brazil, Totvs SA, is already building an ERP (enterprise resource planning) application on Symphony, he said.
And before Symphony was released stand-alone, IBM had already included it in Lotus Notes 8, the latest version of its collaboration software, another arena in which it is tweaking its strategy to battle with Microsoft. Office is playing an increasingly important role for Microsoft in this market, as the company hopes to leverage the ubiquity of Office among business users by making its applications the front-end interface for worker collaboration.
So far Symphony is getting decent reviews among users, and analysts think IBM, because of its successful software history, has a better chance than others at giving Microsoft Office some real competition.
"IBM is the 800-pound gorilla in enterprise software and Microsoft's main rival for information worker productivity tools," wrote IDC analyst Melissa Webster in a research report published Wednesday. "And Symphony addresses the concerns that potential OpenOffice.org users might have had in regard to using open source software: Symphony is backed by the IBM brand, and is provided as a commercially developed and supported product suite."
IBM plans to release a second beta of Symphony in the next six to eight weeks, with a general availability release of the software to come early next year, Rhodin said. At that time, IBM will offer enterprise support for the suite for a fee, though he acknowledged that IBM doesn't really expect to sell much of that support and is only providing it so enterprises will feel more comfortable implementing Symphony.